PiratescoverGrade: B
Entire family: No
2014, 130 min., Color
Not rated (would be PG-13 for some violence and language)
Well Go USA
Aspect ratio: 16×9 widescreen
Featured audio: Korean 5.1 HD Surround/DTS-HD
Bonus features: None

The real test of a movie in our household is whether one or all of us want to add that film to our collection so we can watch it again. And 15 minutes into The Pirates, my teenage son was cracking up and saying, “This is a keeper.” I second the notion.

But I’ll tell you right now, your children have to be good and confident readers to enjoy this South Korean comedy-adventure, because it’s presented in Korean with English subtitles, and there’s plenty of fast-talking action.

Director Lee Seok-hoon pays obvious homage to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise with a slick comedy-adventure that features a Johnny Depp-like bandit leader known as Crazy Tiger (Jang Sa-jung) and a female pirate chief-turned-captain (Son Ye-jin). There are funnily harrowing escapes and even a giant water wheel that rolls through a marketplace, all of which will remind you of Captain Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swan.

There’s a thin line between “homage” and “rip-off,” but The Pirates also features plenty of quirky originality. How else to describe a plot that turns on a whale that happens to swallow the royal seal and gold that was en route to validate a new dynasty? Though the film is set in 1388 and on the surface seems to tell the epic tale behind the founding of the Joseon Dynasty, there’s more comedy and magical realism in The Pirates than there is actual history. If it were an American film we’d be calling it a blockbuster or a popcorn movie, because it’s all about big special effects, a high-concept Hollywood formula, and plenty of action and laughs.   More